Mar 1 1988

Pro Football, the Media and the Mob

CBS sportscaster professed shock and dismay last January when Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder made offensive remarks about black athletes. Shortly thereafter Snyder was fired by CBS, leaving his erstwhile colleagues to cover the National Football conference playoffs without the benefit of the Greek’s pre-game betting wisdom.

Snyder’s racist comments were repudiated by CBS announcer Brent Musberger prior to the Redskin-Viking championship match-up (1/10/88). (Apparently Musberger sees nothing offensive in Washington’s team using a Native American as its mascot.) “I’ve heard [Snyder] be more anti-Semitic and anti-female than antiblack in some of his off-camera remarks,” Musberger later told a reporter (Ms., April 1988).

While roundly condemning Snyder for his injudicious observations, the networks neglected to note an important aspect of the Greek’s career — his link with gangsters. A convicted bookmaker, the Greek was pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1974. Snyder’s biography — from Las Vegas to CBS — is emblematic of deep-rooted connections between organized crime, the National Football League and the media industry.

Such connections are documented by Dan Moldea in Regardie’s (February 1988), a Washington-based business monthly. Moldea reports that more than $25 billion is wagered on professional football each year. The key to sports betting is the “outlaw line” or point spread, which Jimmy the Greek discussed regularly on CBS, even though gambling is illegal in 49 states. The betting line, fixed by Las Vegas mobsters, is also carried in many daily newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Each time an NFL game is televised nationally, according to Moldea, the volume of legal and illegal gambling increases by about 600 percent. And more gambling means more people fastened to their TV sets — which translates into higher advertising rates and greater profits for the networks. Small wonder there is little enthusiasm among the big media for probing the alliance between the NFL and the Mob.

Moldea identifies 17 past and present owners of pro football teams who “have documented personal and/or business relationships with members of organized crime and/or gambling communities.” During the past 25 years, at least 23 government investigations of gambling in the NFL have been initiated, but all collapsed. And IRS probe was curtailed in 1967 after Justice Department lawyers conferred with William Hundley, head of NFL Security. A former G-man, Hundley is a co-founder of Intertel, the controversial private security firm controlled by Resorts International, which was investigated for organized crime links. Thomas Murphy, chairman of ABC/Capital Cities, is a director of Resorts International.

“What you’ve got here,” an IRS agent told Moldea, “are connections among the Cosa Nostra, sports figures, and the television news media. And it’s still going on….”

And the major media, with few exceptions, are still ignoring a very embarrassing subject. Moldea appeared on CBS Night Watch (1/29/88) and CNN Crossfire (1/30/88), but his story wasn’t picked up by the nightly news or the national print media. As an NBC employee told Moldea, “We spend $5 billion to broadcast NFL games. We can’t have you on saying it’s crooked.”